The Sony PXW-X70. Sometimes good things come in small packages!

DSC09308-1024x681 The Sony PXW-X70. Sometimes good things come in small packages!
The new Sony PXW-X70 XDCAM camcorder.

Initial Thoughts.

As the owner of a Sony AX100, which is a really great little 4K and HD camcorder I wasn’t really all that excited when I saw the first prototype of the X70 at Broadcast Asia back in June. You see in the past Sony have done this many times, taken a high end consumer camcorder, updated the firmware, added a handle and then sold it for a higher price as a pro camcorder.  In the past, there has in reality been little difference between the cheaper consumer model and the more expensive pro version.

DSC09310-300x199 The Sony PXW-X70. Sometimes good things come in small packages!
The handgrip on the Sony PXW-X70

The PXW-X70 is different. This is much more than an AX100 with new firmware. For a start the body of the camera is quite different. The right hand side of the X70 is quite different to the AX100. It has a much fatter hand grip. This makes the camera much easier to hold comfortably for long periods. It also makes space for a full size HDSDI output and a full size HDMI output. But the differences don’t stop there.

On the top of the hand grip there is a large assignable button that is normally set to act as a control for the focus magnification function. This button falls immediately under your index finger when your shooting. In front of this is a new larger and easier to use zoom rocker and then in front of that is another assignable button, this one set as a one push auto iris button – very nice!

DSC09313-300x199 The Sony PXW-X70. Sometimes good things come in small packages!
The back of the handgrip and the small joystick.

At the back of the handle there is a small joystick that ends up under your thumb (just where it needs to be). This joystick can be used to navigate through the cameras menu system. So, without taking your hand out of the hand grip you can check focus, zoom in and out, set your exposure and go through the menu system. If only it was this easy on all of Sony’s cameras! Ergonomically this camera is really good, especially when you consider how small it is.

The camera has a nice 12x stabilised, optical zoom lens, behind which sits a 1 inch 20 megapixel sensor. In video mode about 14 million pixels are used, so even in 4K (there will be a paid 4K upgrade option next year) there are more pixels than needed for full resolution. Rather than let this extra resolution go to waste you can activate Sony’s “clear image zoom” function that works seamlessly with the optical zoom to give you a 24x zoom range in HD.

Guard-detail-300x168 The Sony PXW-X70. Sometimes good things come in small packages!
Frame grab from PXW-X70. Click on the image to see the full size frame.

The clear image zoom really is remarkably transparent. If you look hard enough at the image, on a big screen, when it’s zoomed all the way in you can just about discern a very slight softness to the image, but frankly I don’t think this is any worse than the softness you might see from a compact optical 24x zoom. It certainly doesn’t look electronic and unless you have side by side, with and without test clips I don’t think you would know that the clear image zoom has been used.

If 24x is not enough there is also a further digital extender, controlled by a button on the right side of the lens that doubles the digital zoom. This you can see, the image is a little degraded at 48x, but it’s not terrible, might be handy for a breaking news story where you can’t get close to the subject.

DSC09318-300x199 The Sony PXW-X70. Sometimes good things come in small packages!
The left side of the PXW-X70

As well as the optical stabiliser in the lens the camera also has a switchable electronic stabiliser. The active steadyshot is very effective at smoothing out even the shakiest of hands. But it does tend to hang on or grab hold of the image a bit. So when you do deliberately move the camera it tends to try to stabilise the scene until it can no longer correct for the cameras movement at which point the scene is suddenly released and starts to move. If your using a tripod you definitely want to just use the standard steadyshot and not the active mode.

DSC09326-300x199 The Sony PXW-X70. Sometimes good things come in small packages!
Dual SD card slots on the PXw-X70

The pictures are recorded using either XAVC, AVCHD or standard definition DV to SD cards. For XAVC you must use SDXC cards, but these are cheap and readily available these days. There are two card slots and you can choose between relay record where the camera will switch from slot A to slot B once A is full, or you can make two simultaneous recordings on both cards at the same time. This gives an instant backup if you need it.

XAVC HD RECORDING:

The XAVC HD recordings are 10 bit 422 long GoP at 50Mb/s, 35Mb/s or 25Mb/s. The quality of the 50Mb/s recordings is amazing with no compression artefacts that I can see (there must be some, I just can’t see them). Even the 25Mb/s recordings look really good. You can shoot at up to 60fps in 60i mode and 50fps in 50i mode. In 60i mode you also have 24fps.

Train-arrivibg-detail-1024x576 The Sony PXW-X70. Sometimes good things come in small packages!
Frame grab form the PXW-X70, click on the image to see full size.

Considering this is a highly compact, single chip camera the images it produces are really very good. They don’t have that typical small sensor camera look. The pictures are remarkably noise free at 0db and largely free of artefacts. I tend to find that small handycams often suffer from what I would describe as “busy” pictures. Pictures where  perhaps there is a lot of added sharpening or where the pixels are read in special ways to make a sharp picture. This makes edges slightly flickery and gives the pictures a tell tale small sensor look. The X70 with it’s big sensor and abundance of pixels just doesn’t have this “busy” look.

Train-Station-1024x576 The Sony PXW-X70. Sometimes good things come in small packages!
Train sitting in station. Frame grab from PXW-X70

The pictures really look like they come from a pro camera. Occasionally very fine, high contrast details like white text on a black background can look a little busy, but this is very minor. Dynamic range is quite respectable, it’s not as good as a PMW-300, but not too bad for a compact handycam (I estimate about 10 to 11 stops of DR).

One thing I did find with this camera is that because there is so little noise and the codec is so good, you could quite comfortably shoot about a stop darker than you would normally and then just bring the image up a bit in post. Shooting a little darker helps the camera handle bright highlights and then in post you can just bring up the shadows and mid tones with a simple colour correction to give a nice exposure. I wish I had realised this when I shot the demo video. I would have exposed a little on the dark side and then tweaked the shots in post. There’s so little noise at 0db and so few artefacts that the image holds up to this really well. If your using auto exposure you can set an exposure offset to allow for this in the menu.

DSC09336-300x199 The Sony PXW-X70. Sometimes good things come in small packages!
PXW-X70 without the top handle fitted.

The X70 is pretty sensitive and 9db of gain is quite useable, so shooting indoors in a typical home or at a wedding venue without extra lights should be no problem. Ramp it up to +33db and it see’s better in the dark than I do, but there is a fair bit of noise at +33db.

As well as being generally rather sensitive the PXW-X70 also has a nightshot mode that bypasses the cameras IR filter and includes a switchable infra-red light, so you can shoot in total darkness if you want.

To see what you are shooting there is a 3.5″ LCD panel. This panel is higher resolution than the one on the AX100 and gives a sharp and pretty accurate image. On the back of the camera there is a small OLED viewfinder. This little OLED is pretty good. It has great contrast and is pretty sharp for a small finder. It’s a great feature on bright sunny days when the LCD can become harder to see.

CRISP, SHARP IMAGES:

The HD images are crisp and sharp without any obvious sharpening, almost certainly a result of having a 4K ready sensor. The lack of obvious detail correction helps give the pictures a pleasing, more filmic look. The camera has picture profiles so if you want you can soften or sharpen the images if you choose. As well as detail and aperture controls there are also controls for gamma (standard, still, Cinematone1, Cinematone2, ITU709) and color. The color controls are similar to those on the FS700 where you can adjust the saturation as well as R, G, B, C, M, Y and K brightness. In addition there is a choice of 6 different preset color modes plus black and white.

DSC09315-300x199 The Sony PXW-X70. Sometimes good things come in small packages!
PXW-X70 auto/manual switch.

The camera can be controlled either fully automatically or fully manual as well as various in between modes. There is a switch on the back of the camera to switch between auto and manual. In manual you can control the iris, shutter and gain by pressing one of three buttons along the bottom edge of the camera and the using a small wheel just below the lens to set what you have selected. In practice this actually works quite well. There is another button for white balance control on the side of the camera with the usual presets plus auto white balance. Just under the Manual/Auto switch there is a selector for the built in ND filters. I recently purchased a A7s DSLR type camera and I had forgotten what a fiddle it can be to use a camera that doesn’t have built in ND’s. So it’s really good to see proper ND filters on the PXW-X70 as they really help you manage your depth of field.

On the lens there is a single large control ring that can be used to focus the lens or to act as a manual zoom ring. The focus is responsive and although I don’t normally like round and round servo focus rings this one wasn’t too bad.

DSC09330-300x199 The Sony PXW-X70. Sometimes good things come in small packages!
The zoom/focus ring on the PXW-X70.

There really is so much to this camera that it would take a small book to go through all the features. For example there’s the touch screen LCD that can be used for touch to focus or touch to expose where you just touch the part of the screen you want to expose or focus on. There’s a full set of exposure and focus aids including peaking, histogram, zebras etc.

On the top of the camera you have Sony’s new MI shoe (Multi-Interface) for connecting accessories like the supplied handle with XLR audio inputs. The supplied detachable handle is really well made and very secure when attached. One small note is that by default when you attach the handle to the MI-shoe the camera switches to XLR audio automatically by default. So if you don’t actually have a mic connected to the handle you won’t have any audio as the internal mic gets shut off. You have to go in to the audio section of the menu to enable the internal mic if you want to use the handle but want to use the built in mic.

If you want to do time-lapse or slow stuff down the camera has S&Q motion that goes from 1fps to 60fps at 1920×1080.

The camera has WiFi and NFC and allows remote control via Content Browser Mobile and simply touching an NFC enabled phone or tablet against the side of the camera will pair the camera with the phone or tablet. In the future following a firmware update you will be able to use the camera to stream your content live via U-stream.

Finally – build quality. It’s really well made. It feels nice and solid, it feels like it will really last. Don’t tell Sony, but I dropped the camera from waist hight while I was using it. It survived, no problem at all.

DSC093181-300x199 The Sony PXW-X70. Sometimes good things come in small packages!
Sony’s new baby XDCAM camcorder, the PXW-X70.

In conclusion: This is a nice little camera. It’s very easy to operate. The picture quality is very good for such a compact camera, the only thing that lets it down just a bit is the highlight handling. But the camera is so clean that you can afford to expose a little lower to compensate for this. Since shooting the demo video I have been playing with the picture profiles to help with the highlight exposure and I found that bringing up the black gamma really helps as it lifts the mid range allowing you to expose slightly lower.

The large sensor, combined with the switchable built in ND filters gives you much greater control over the depth of field than normally possible with a compact handycam.

I think you have to remember that this is a small camera. It isn’t a PXW-X180 and it never will be, but if your budget is tight and you want an easy to use compact camera this could be the one for you. I think it would be a good fit as a “B” camera or for use in lower budget corporate productions. In addition the PXW-X70 would be a good camera to give to PA’s and producers or to hand off to inexperienced shooters for fly-on-the-wall productions.

122 thoughts on “The Sony PXW-X70. Sometimes good things come in small packages!”

  1. Alastair,

    thanks for a great wrap-up of this camera. I’ve been using a PMW-200 since it was released, and it delivers some great images – plus all the usual Sony bells and whistles. I have BM Pocket Cameras, and the GH4 as well. The smaller size of the PXW-X70, plus it’s advanced codec (and 4K in the future), and a chip bigger than super 16, as well as many of the nice Sony features, really has me excited. Why? Because the PMW-200 is so damn heavy for running and gunning. I’m curious about your comment that it will never be a PXW-X180… What’s it’s biggest shortfall compared to the 180?

  2. It’s biggest shortfall is the highlight handling. It’s just not quite as good as the X180. However, raising the black gamma to +7 HIGH in the picture profiles really helps. The thing is that this is a cheap camera, maybe you can keep your PMW-200 and supplement it with the X70.

  3. Hi Alister,

    Great review! A an AX100 owner I have some questions:

    Does the X70 have knee and slope controls?

    Will this lens allow for very slow “creeping” zoom ins/outs? (the AX100’s zoom rocker is way too touchy)

    Do you have any word yet on the future 4k bitrate? I have to imagine it’s least UHD 4:2:0 @ 100Mbp/s (Panasonic/Lumix has proved that you can record 100Mbp/s on SDXC cards now)

    Thanks again.

    CT

    p.s. Will you be doing a Sony A7s review soon? (I just got mine last week and I LOVE that thing!)

    1. Yes it has knee and slope controls but I didn’t find that they made a great deal of difference to the highlight handling. Raising the black gamma was more effective, allowing you to expose a little lower.

  4. Nice writeup. Curious about the OIS: does the lens and sensor block move together as a unit? I got me an NX30 as my small run-and-gun camera for situations where moving fast outweighed the nice image I get out of my mirrorless cameras (GH2s which gave way to GH4s to which I just added an A7s).

    Outdoors, in good light, the NX30 does fine. But, I’m not thrilled with the NX30 indoors, especially when cut with GH4 footage. So, despite not yet penciling out, I am looking for a replacement for my NX30. Seems like the X70 would be an all around upgrade to my NX30, but I think the 30’s OIS is pretty amazing, key for a small, handheld.

    What are your thoughts on the X70 as a replacement for an NX30?

    Thanks!

    1. It’s a fixed lens but the stabiliser is pretty good. It would bring really good image quality compared to an NX30.

  5. Alistair,

    Will the 4K upgrade be similar to that of the A7s whereby you will need an external 4K recorder?
    The AX100 can already do 4K as well as xavc. to me, the AX100 will be just as good as the X70. The built in SDI port is nice and the handle is nice but i already have the external xlr kit from my sony a99 and it works great!
    Also, will the X70 utilize the true 4K resolution or will it be the consumer pixel size. Frankly, either one in 4K is amazing and I doubt anyone will notice the difference.

  6. Did Sony not get the memo?
    Let’s not forget what happened with the Sony FS700. Remember how vague Sony was with the upgrade information and pricing? Here’s a recap, it cost $400 for the upgrade to the camera. Another $2000 or so for the interface and another $6000 for the recorder (people found affordable workarounds). Sony would remove the $400 portion if you purchased the other equipment.

    If you get the chance, voice your opinion to Sony on the PXW-X70 because this is a POS marketing ploy that is insulting, contains vague information, and no pricing information.

    1. My understanding is that the 4K will be internal XAVC, but of course there is also an HDMI out. The price has not been set, but rumour has it that it will be in the £400-£500 region.

      It’s probably vague simply because the engineers haven’t figured out exactly how far they can push the camera and codec. Up to now Sony have not allowed any camera to record at more than about 60Mb/s to an SDXC card. However other manufacturers are pushing 100Mb/s to SDXC. So maybe Sony are trying to figure out what bit rate they can use reliably before releasing all the details.

  7. Thanks for a very useful review. Curious about rolling shutter, especially since it seems that the A7s has a lot of rolling shutter, especially in full frame mode. Similar with this camera?

  8. Alister,

    Thanks for the useful writeup. Two questions (that I couldn’t get answered with a brief Google search):

    1) I’ve seen a wide range of possible price guesses. What have you been told (or do you assume) will be the announced/expected price?

    2) How wide does the lens get? Was that an issue for day-in-day-out use for you?

    Thanks! –Jim

    1. The lens is wide enough for most day to day shooting. You could use a 0.7x wide adapter (I have one that fits) if you need to go very wide.

      I was not given any firm pricing, but Sony are well aware that if this is too much more expensive than the AX100 that it will be a hard sell. So I expect to see about a £500 premium over the AX100 for the X70. That would make it approx £2,200.

  9. Hi Alister,

    Great review as always!
    Looks like a great little camera, for a good price.

    For me though, I am looking at investing in my first fully owned camera for event shooting, documentaries and ENG for my freelance work. It will be ainly for web delivery, but also broadcast.

    Would really appreciate your advice. What cameras would you recommend from the Sony XDCAM lineup if I might ask? Is the PXW X180 a good investment as a main camera? will need to be sturdy and durable. Might the 1/3 inch sensors be a deal breaker?

    Budget is around 6000 pounds.
    Thank you for any advice Alister

    Best,
    Magnus
    Tokyo, Japan

  10. Are there CineGammas on the X70?

    If you were off to a corporate event or tradeshow assignment, which would you choose – EX1R or X70?

    Dare I ask… is there Face Track and/or Tap To Focus on this camera? Self-op interviews are de rigueur for many videographers and these focus aids are most welcome if we wish to concentrate on our interviewees rather than our viewfinder.

    I really enjoyed the AX100 over the Z100, and so a Pro version to supplement an S35 sensor camera such as F3/C100 is appealing, but highlight handling is key – it’s what spoiled my relationship with the FS100. And I think that dials back to the original question – CineGammas… or anything close – Knee at 90/-2 and black stretch without noise at a bare minimum. LOL

    1. No Cinegammas. The sensor does not appear to have the dynamic range to make use of cinegammas. Yes there is tap to focus and face tracking.

  11. Alister – thank you again for another excellent review – we have been in contact before through dvinfo.net.

    I have been a PMW Ex1 user since 2008 and now PMW 200 over the last year or so – I used a nano flash with the EX1 recording at 100mbps and 4:2:2 – of course the nano flash was dropped when I bought the 200.

    I am really very happy with the PMW 200 and have been waiting for Sony to bring a 4K version out but have not seen anything comparable (Z100 is certainly not comparable).

    My question is this – would there be enough of a difference in the picture quality between the x70 vs. the 200 that I should wait further? You mentioned highlight handling but that can be compensated by black gamma adjustment and perhaps shooting a bit dark. With a 1″ sensor I would think the x70 has excellent low light capability. You keep mentioning the “excellent picture quality for a small camera” – does that mean in side by side comparisons one could tell a significant difference between video shot with the 200 vs. the x70?

    I really like the small form factor and the fact the upper assembly can be removed and then use internal mics – this could help in my travels – one look at the PMWEX1 with shotgun mic and Nanoflash on the back of the camera and the guards at The Vatican made me stow it in the cloakroom (special permit needed) – even in London on the walkway between The Eye and Parliament bridge I was told to stop filming because the owner of the complex deemed it “improper” .

    I am not a professional videographer such as yourself but a physician (cardiologist) and HD videography is my hobby but I still want to keep up with as professional look to my videos as possible.

    I know the 4K upgrade is a few months off but I’m assuming they would be using something like the XAVC-S codec since it will be stored on SDXC cards – the z100 recording is horrendous – 20 minutes on a 64 GB card @ 30p and half that at 60p. Does it look like we will need to give up 4:2:2 (and probably 60p) with the new codec?

    I apologize for the long post – in summary – PMW 200 vs PXW X70 video quality? Comparable? Enough of a difference that an amateur “professional” videographer such as myself could tell that much difference in side by side comparisons?

    Your input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

    1. The X70 is very good at it’s price point. But unless you need 4K or need a tiny camera, right now I would stick with your PMW-200. I doubt the X70 will do 4K at 60p. It might just squeeze in 422, but it’s still going to have to be very compressed to be able to use SDXC cards.

  12. I’m really considering this as a B cam for my fs700. I do mostly doc-style corp projects and this seems like a real winner. Green screen and events but also pull of some nice SDOF for sit-downs (compressed). If the PMX180 is the big brother why the 1/3 chip set? Would not the x70 be better in low light than the 180?

    Seems like my biggest problem would be convincing a client that we’re pros using this little cam. I know the proof is in the pudding but sorry, size does matter sometimes lol (at least to the people paying the bills).

    1. Smaller sensor make it easier to add long zoom range lenses. The X180 and X70 are very different cameras. The X180 has better dynamic range, but the X70 is higher resolution. The X180 lens is f1.8 while the X70 is f2.8 to f4.5 lens so focal length will have a noticeable effect on low light performance, plus while the X70 sensor is bigger it has a lot more pixels on it, so the low light benefits are not as big as they could be.

  13. Hi Alister,
    Great review!
    I’m thinking of buying AX100 or X70 and I have few questions.
    I must doing photos at the same time as the movie.
    Does the X70 can take photos like the AX100?
    Does the X70 or the AX100 work with HVL-F60AM?

    Thanks!

  14. They ax-100 will do 120fps. Any clear insight on what the x70 can/will be able to accomplish? I seemed to have read it will do double the frame rate.
    24p=48fps |30p=60fps | 60p=120fps. Am I mistaken?

    I have been using the fs700 successfully since its birth. I (like others) have grown tired of the poor ergo, added bits and pieces and form factor. Seems like the x70 would be a great B cam and workhorse for corporate docs, green screen and broll. No?

    Now, if we could get a S35 sensor in the pmw300 body I’d be happier than a pig in…

  15. Thank you for your review. Did you remember please if the camera has a “stand-by” power option after “x” minutes of inactivity ? And also if the “startup time” is short or long ? Thank you again

    1. Not 100% sure about the standby function, but I’m pretty sure it will power off after about 5mins of non use. There may be an option in the menu to change this. Startup is quick, 3 or 4 seconds I think.

  16. thanks for the news, this camera REALLY catches my interest. curious. in your initial use of it, could you get a feel for how dynamic range was possible with it?
    are there any chances that there will be a log profile built-in like SLog2?

    1. No, it’s different on the X70 to to AX100. The switch switches exposure control between full auto and manual on the X70. On the AX100 it just switches the ND’s between manual and auto as in essence the AX100 is in auto exposure by default.

    1. Both Ax100 and X70 have maximum apertures of f2.8. Most likely due to the larger sensor and trying to keep the lens compact.

  17. Hi, thanks, this is the most informative article on the x70 yet.
    Having used both, can you comment on real life picture quality differences compared to ax100 ? How effective the xavc-s format is ? I have the ax100, being extremely happy with it. Yes, x70 seems to have better ergonomics, top handle, xlr input (available for ax100 as well)… But for a grab-and-shoot camera the ax100 has the same sensor, same filters, somewhat less manual controls, in smaller size… And immediate 4k. I do not miss anything now for “easy” applications. For more demanding filming I do not feel the x70 is suitable enough. Any comment ?

    1. Not a huge difference in image quality. It is essentially the same just recorded with a much better codec. It is the ergonomic differences that are the most significant.

  18. Thank you for sharing Alastair. I just returned the Sony HXR-NX3 because you cannot operate the LCD and the EVF simultaneously. By chance, does the x70 give you that luxury of using the LCD and EVF? Guessing it does not but worth asking. Thanks for your time.

  19. A very informative review. Thank you.
    I have to choose between this and a Canon XA25 for a client, for a camera that could be operated on a tripod as part of webcast coverage in a lecture theatre where the zoom may end up on its far end if picking out someone in the audience. It may also be used handheld on a cable (don’t think you mention the very useful SDI output).
    I see you say the zoom is seamless between its optical and digital ranges. Someone did ask earlier if you could creep the zoom slowly, and is the zoom speed nicely proportional to the rocker?
    I’m guessing you’d choose this over the Canon?
    I think the audio switching over to the XLR’s when the handle is attached will lead to a fair few mute recordings! When you switch over to the internal mic, does it remember that every time you switch on, or do you have to re-select the internal mic?
    Cheers, Rob.

  20. Thanks!
    How about rolling shutter on the X70?
    Is the rolling shutter as AX100?
    Is the rolling shutter a big issue on AX100?
    Some videos on the net look awful.

    Thanks
    Johan

  21. Alister – Thank you for your advice. I’m sure that technically the PMW 200 is a better HD camera than the X70 but, for my purposes, I believe the X70 will fill the bill. I “bought” an AX100 for 2 weeks and did about an hour of video in all different lighting conditions both in 4K and HD up to 60p and with good outdoor lighting I was hard pressed to tell the difference in quality of the shots between the 2 cameras (in my non-professional eye’s opinion). In low light, the judicious use of
    gain to compensate produced very acceptable (to me) results and seemed to have less noise than the 200 for the same level of gain.

    I also find the small form factor quite appealing as I will be using this for vacations with long escorted tours and lugging around the 200 for 8-10 hours straight has not been the most pleasant experience.

    My question to you is: when the camera is finally in the hands of the public, will you be publishing us suggestions as to recommended picture profile settings to maximize the video quality of the camera?

    1. There is a fair bit of rolling shutter. I wouldn’t shoot sports with it but for general shooting it should be fine. It doesn’t do 4K yet so no idea how good it will be. Should be at least as good as the AX100 which downconverts very well indeed.

  22. I am interested in replacing my two Sony FS100 camcorders with two X70s to have something even smaller; however I am concerned about the actual low light ability of the X70. At some sites where we could sneak in the FS100s we dared not use any lights, however we could manage to film in very poor light situations at 27dB without getting too much noise. The footage of our two NX30s at the same shoot was unusable. How would you rate the lowlight ability of the X70 in comparison with that of the FS100? Could one use the X70 to shoot in museums that allow the use of cameras but not lights?

    1. FS100 is the king of low light cameras, except perhaps for the A7s or PMW-F3. X70 is good, better than NX30 but not as good as the FS100.

  23. Congrats on such an informative review of the X70 and a beautiful documentary of Morris and steam engines.

    I am mainly a sound recordist specialising in classical music and live concerts. We typically underrecord our audio tracks in terms of level by 6dB or so to leave headroom for unexpected loud events driving us into unwanted saturation and clipping. We also use sampling rates higher than 44.1kHz. Then we sort out the sampling rate and bring the overall level up for the finished delivered product. This works well. We have 24 bits to play with and noise is no big deal any more.

    Your comments about avoiding bleached highlights with the X70 ring bells loudly here, and your review is the first time I have read this wisdom detailed in print. Why are camera operators obsessed with driving their cameras into clipping of highlights, rather than backing off a stop and setting levels in postproduction? Watching BBC broadcasts nearly everything has pretty badly bleached highlights. Maybe it gets worse because of the data compression packages used in transmission, but the end result is ugly. Yet we watch well made movies shot with say an F55, Alexa or RED and they are not full of bleached highlights.

    We regularly use PMW-EX1 and EX3 cameras for multicam live events, and it is easy to back them off by a stop or half a stop. Even on “Auto IRIS” a modest camera like an EX1 has TLCS in the menu which automatically backs you off by a stop or whatever you choose in setup. With older generation cameras noise was a bigger issue than now, so why not back off a stop in everything now and sort the levels out later?

    How do you find the A7S so far? I have seen some fabulous material and have one on my shopping list.

    1. Thanks for the kind words.

      If the camera has low enough noise, exposing a bit lower is good practice, but it will depend on noise levels.

      Loving the A7s.

  24. Thank you for the depth and scope of your review. Regarding the white balance: is it possible to manually dial in the white balance or is the camera limited to auto and presets?

  25. Nothing but good reviews to find on this camera… So when is Sony actually going to release it? I’ve asked two Sony reps for an anticipated US release date. Neither have an answer. Irritating because I have a shoot less than a month away that needs a brilliant yet small camera that I am stalling on purchasing because this is the camera I want.

    Any chance you can get an answer from Sony?

    -Scott

  26. Why is there always, it seems, a retrograde step when a new camcorder is introduced.
    Just when Canon catch up with Sony by fitting an in-built lens cap to the XA20, Sony
    go back to a loose cap in the X70. I have an XA10 onto which I transferred my old
    Canon XM1 cap with its attached cord. I wonder if there is a cord on the X70 lens cap
    or will I put it down and lose it.

  27. Thanks for this in depth review! There have been a couple questions about zoom speed. One of my concerns is that the max zoom speed might be too slow if you want to quickly pop in or out. Can you give some indication of how quick it can go from one end to the other?

    1. The zoom speed is fairly fast. Not as fast as a full size B4 servo zoom. You can’t crash zoom with it, but you can zoom quickly.

  28. Hi…does the 70 have full manual function..the nx30 you cannot select manual shutter speed and manual iris at the same time. Can you do this with the pxw70

  29. Hello Alister.
    I plan to buy the PXW 70 to replace my NX 30 which has a very good stabilzer. Is the one of the PXW 70 as good? And do I have the possibilty to use my Lanc Remote mounted on the handle of my tripod?

    1. The IS is very good on the X70. It does not have the ride movement range of the NX30, but for removing general shaky hand effects it’s pretty good. Yes you can use Lanc accessories with it.

  30. I’ve been told today that it ia not possible to use a lanc remote (even with an adapter). Has anyone the same or other infos?

  31. Hi, I have zero experience with prosumer cameras and need a B-Roll camera to go with my PDW 700. Do you think the 70’s image is close enough to cut together without it being obvious?

  32. The contraction “you’re” should appear in this article 3 times where the word “your” is used instead. It is like a game in Highlights magazine to find them.

    1. Yes I can confirm this. You can use the new Sony Catalyst Browse software to transcode the material to ProRes.

      Support will come for Long GOP XAVC in FCP-X soon. It’s already supported in Adobe CC and upto 30fps in resolve.

  33. Hello, I JUST came across this camera. I shoot mini documentaries and interviews for web. I also don’t have alot of money, so I’ve been using the Canon XA10. But I need to step up the quality. My question is: If I buy this camera, but have to use it AVCHD codec because it’s main one is not supported by Adobe Premiere….will my image quality still be noticeably better do to the camera and it’s larger processor?

    1. The AX100 codecs including the long GOP XAVC are all supported in Premiere CC.

      AVCHD will not deliver the full quality that the camera is capable of. I won’t be bad, but not as good as the XAVC.

  34. Good day!
    Currently working on a Sony 2100 love the built-in stereo microphone. I want to change her old camera on this model, the question is quality built-in microphone at the same level as in my 2100? and it is mono or stereo? Thank you.
    Alexander.

  35. I see that Adobe CC accepts XAVC Long, but not XAVC Long “GOP.” Does the GOP mean anything significant??? I called Adobe (which means I was rerouted to India), and they were not familiar with the GOP addition and recommended I not buy the camera because it would not be supported.

    1. “XAVC Long” or “XAVC L” is short for XAVC Long GOP. the “long” bit refers to the way the images are encoded using a long group of pictures. In a Long Group Of Pictures the first frame is encoded in it’s entirety and for the following frames (typically 12 to 15 frames) in the group (GOP) only the changes from the first frame are saved, this makes the compression more efficient.

  36. Thank you for this great review, Alister. The footage looks truly splendid. I have a similar question to a previous comment – regarding it’s use as a B-roll camera, but in this case with the PMW-200. As one of EX series of camcorders, will the footage have a similar look at standard settings? I am really interested in this camera, but a fairly nebulous thread regarding colour balance issues, over at dvinfo.net (http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/sony-xavc-xdcam-camera-systems/525221-pxw-x70-dsc-chart-vectorscope-2.html#post1864014) has me slightly spooked. Any brief comment from you on this would be much appreciated.

    1. It won’t ever look quite the same as a PMW-200 as the X70 is a single sensor bayer camera and this will have a different general look. It’s not a million miles away, it’s pretty close, but it is still just a little bit different (I really like the X70’s color). As a B camera doing a different shot from a different angle in most cases the difference will be hard to see. But put them side by side doing the same shot and they will always look a little different.

  37. Thanks, Alister – that’s fair enough, and close enough, for my purposes at least. I also picked up your comment at dvinfo. Much appreciated and reassured.

  38. From the outset I want to point out that as far as the PXW-X70 hardware is concerned it’s 5 / 5 stars all the way. However, like many owners of the new Sony PXW-X70 I was eager to shoot some test footage and import XAVC 50Mbps (MXF) footage into my editor viz: Sony Vegas Pro 12. I ignored the negative comments I saw on the Web about importing into Premier and Final Cut since I use Sony’s own ‘pro’ editor, I felt certain that all would work perfectly.
    Not only does Sony Vegas Pro 12 (or VP13) not recognise the cam in ‘Device Explorer’ (as suggested in VP Help system) but I could not import any footage. This problem exists apparently across a range of NLEs, including Final Cut Pro on the Mac.
    I am asking myself, what was the point of purchasing a superb bit of kit like the PXW-X70 if you can’t get to edit the high quality footage it produces – even with Sony’s own editing software??

    1. It is a bit disappointing that support for the Long GoP versions of XAVC is being a bit slow in coming. Sony’s new Catalyst Browse software can transcode the files. The files are supported by Adobe CC.

    1. You can transcode to several formats from Catalyst Browse. Select the file you want to transcode and under “file” choose “transcode to”. From here you can transcode to other types of XAVC, DPX and AVC. Plus on a Mac ProRes.

  39. It was found that the internal microphone is not suitable for the job, which an external microphone can Alistair recommend for this camera?
    Thank you

  40. Thanks for all the work you put into this site Alister. I recently picked up the X70 and your site was an important resource both before and after purchase. I am a one-person observational doc shooter, and I am finding that (with a few small exceptions) the x70 is working well for me.

    One of my main challenges in terms of image has been getting highlights and blow-outs to look okay. I have raised black ped. And tinkered with knee. Till now most of my efforts have been with Gamma: ITU709 and Color Mode: ITU709 Matrix. But I just did a test with Gamma: Cinematone1 and leaving Color Mode on ITU709 Matrix. This seems to give an over-all brighter image, with less detail in the highlights. That’s okay with me. I like that the highlights roll off without over saturating or hyping a single color just before clipping with this Gamma setting.

    My question is: will this type of profile setup cause problems later on assuming the project is being graded for broadcast. I initially thought I should stick with ITU709 because of broadcast standards. But if I can shoot with Cinematone1 gamma, that would be my preference. Your technical knowledge is much better than mine, so I am hoping you can offer some input.

    1. Just shoot with the gamma that gives you the image that you think looks best. 709 is not a camera standard, it is a display standard. So when you see a 709 gamma in a camera, what that basically means is that when viewed on a 709 TV or monitor the picture will look natural and have similar contrast to the scene you are shooting. But if you want o use a different gamma in the camera for creative or artistic reasons then that is fine, your footage will still be compatible with a 709 display, there will be no technical issues, but perhaps the contrast and brightness will not be as accurate or true to the actual scene. But often this is what you want, you are not trying to measure the scene, you are trying to make pleasing pictures, so often it’s better to sacrifice a bit of accuracy to get a better looking picture.

      One thing I found with the X70 is that because the codec is so good and the image has so little noise, you can afford to under expose a little to give yourself more highlight range. Then in post you can tweak the mid range a little to brighten the image and it should look great.

  41. Thanks for the great review. I’ve now got the camera, and noticed one oddity — no-one else has commented on it, though, which makes me think I’m just going nuts.

    The stereo channels are reversed. I.e. using the internal mic, in XAVC mode, if I walk from camera left to right while talking, then when I play the clip in Sony’s utilities (Content Browser, Catalyst Browse, Catalyst Prepare) the sound comes out the wrong speaker. The external mic is the same, given that left goes into channel 1. AVCHD mode is OK. Anyone else seeing this?

  42. Alister, I happened upon this website and I j u st wanted to say thank you for your YouTube videos on the AX100. Because I feel you, I bought an AX-100. It I should stupendous. It’s ability to shoot in low light conditions lIke restaurants is something that’should impossible to adequately explain. It’s macro qualities blow me away. This has so many features that I seriously doubt that 90% of your readers would ever approach proficiencies in this camcorder whilst asking you about upgrading :-). Thanks again man! OK Mike

  43. @Atticus Lake, Yes, I have the same thing. Well, I have not experimented with the internal mic. But with the XLR plugs, Camera Input 1 comes in on A2 in premiere, and Camera Input 2 comes in on A1. Strange. Should probably complain to Sony.

  44. Dutch is my mother-tongue but I will try in English:
    I have ordered a PXW-X70. I have not received it yet. But now I am a little bit worried.
    Will my Casablanca editing-machine S6000 be able to accept AVCHD pictures from my new PXW-X70 camera? I know that 4K is too early, but I hope that AVCHD will be possible. I have sold my sony NX5 because it was too heavy. Hopefully I didn’t do anything stupid. Was my sony NX5 better than my new PXW-X70? I hope not.

  45. Great thorough review Alister.

    Looks like it’s time to retire my much loved xf100 and get ready for 4K! Beautiful low light image, nice dslr bokeh look with large sensor, good auto focus, possible 24 x zoom, small and light form factor, effective stabilization and XACV support in FCPX. Sounds like a winner!

  46. Hi Alister, is it possible to place a lens or rod mounted mattebox with double Filters and French flag on the X70, even with the xlr handle attached?

    1. You might be able to get a very small matte box under the protruding XLR mic assembly, but larger matte boxes will not fit.

  47. These is a lanc option as found and tested by someone of another website:

    “mark says:
    November 26, 2014 at 8:46 am

    @Robert
    I use 2 vivitar lanc 8 button(they are the same as the ebenk) and they come with a 2.5mm female to av/r cable. The model number is VIV-RC-800 . you can find them at B&H or focuscamera or ebay. Not sure if the ebenk comes with the 2.5-avr cable that will cost more than the controller if bought separately). It has a rotary dial that selects 8 zoom speeds from slow to fast (regardless of the camera settings for it’s own rocker that will still work by the way) plus a variable on pressure. It also has two buttons for focus (Near and Far), on-screen button that does exactly what the display button of the camera does (it needs 1 click to remove the top info, and a second click to remove all the info)HDMI and SDI out will not be affected, so it works only for the info on the LCD. Start/Stop. All the said functions work on X70 : to connect you need the usb to avr cable of course. the other functions (camera on/off, photo and index on thumbnails) were not tested because I never use’em. The focus control moves the lens VERY smoothly. Not good for fast action, but pretty good for micro adjustments (for interviews and close-ups for example). This is a video camera after all, things (like zoom and focus) must go slow. The zoom rocker gives a loud “click”: to fix that you must open the controller (3 screws in the back, open it, locate the switches of the rocker, put a piece of paper to isolate and fix it with gaffer’s tape. close everything and the rocker will be silent.”

  48. I just got the SMAD-P3 MI Shoe adapter for the Sony wireless receiver and I’m very disappointed with the level of noise it adds…
    There are NO controls on the camera to adjust volume once this adapter is attached, so you have to adjust volume on the receiver or transmitter, but even then the boat for us to high!
    Only other issue for me is that it’s does not allow output via SDI and HDMI arne same time, otherwise a nice little camera.
    Here is a quick test I did against the GH4
    http://youtu.be/CtO-JUPgng4

  49. Hi everyone! I just received my PXW-X70. I am very new to this…

    Can someone tell me if I can use three mics at the same time? I have two Senn. wireless packs going into the XLRs on the handle unit, and I would like to plug in a shotgun mic into the 1/8″ mic input on the camera body. Will that give me three separate audio tracks?

    Thank you in advance!

    Chris

  50. Thanks for the great review Alister. I just purchased this as a B camera since it can record continuous for long events and will use it to capture the audio as well. I haven’t been able to film with it as of yet. My A-camera is the A7s. I read that in some of your replies that you are use an A7s. Do you find that the x70 matches up well with the A7s? I know what a great performer the A7s is in low light. I will be filming in low light situations with both cameras.
    Thanks for your response in advance!
    Kevin

    1. They are similar, but not the same. If the shots are different they will be close, but the X70 will be much noisier in low light.

    1. X70 better in low light. NX3 has better optical zoom. X70 has better codec, NX3 has better color reproduction as it’s a 3 chip design. Pro’s and con’s to both. Rent them and try them for yourself. If it was me Id’ get the X70.

  51. Just got an X70 and seems like a nice bit of kit. Wish I could scroll through the wb preset (-7 to +7) by way of an assign button rather than having to find the tiny menu button but at least we can do it whilst recording which is more than can be said for the canon xa20. One question I would like to ask other users is regarding the pull out EVF. When pulled out, I find mine has a slight wobble from side to side. Is this the case with all models, or is there perhaps a slight fault with mine?

  52. I just purchased the x70 and I had a quick question.
    On the xlr handle attachment, there seems to be a little play in the shotgun mic clamp. Is this normal?
    Thanks!

  53. Does the built-in Wi-Fi and NFC technology for wirelessly controlling camera features allow you to zoom wirelessly?

  54. I used a 3/4″ auto heater hose about an 1″ long over the top of my Rode NTG3 and it tightened it right up of the boom mount!

  55. I rented two X70’s for an event shoot in March and wanted to return them after the 1st day. Optically they were fantastic. Recorded media codec/format was highly compatible for my needs too and I thought the little thing had lots going for it. Why did I want to return them — the zoom ring is very st-st-stuttery.. it is stepped. If you value shooting with the rings (vs. rocker) and being able to get a beautiful push or pull — this camera is not for you!

    I just purchased an NX3 and although it’s missing HD-SDI and some of the other lovely things about the X70, it will be perfect for my needs. 🙂

  56. Hi Alister
    I hope you can answer my question.
    I have a question about the headphone output.
    The volume is very low on my headphone.
    What is a good headphone to use with this camera?
    Thanks,

    Bert

  57. I own an X70 and what isn’t mentioned is, no editor will accept its output without a converter, then entering size of file, frame rate, target etc. What a palava. Sony told us fibs when it denied this. If you buy one, be prepared to face a lengthy set up. However, the pictures are quite pleasing. Now look X70 converters for FCP X.

    1. The only major NLE that did not support XAVC-L was FCP-X. This is now fixed and FCP-X supports XAVC-L. Apple dragging their feet as usual.

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